Childhood Summers on the Farm
When I was in grade school (maybe even before that, but as long as I can remember), I spent every summer with my grandparents in Baker, Florida. I'd often arrive within a week after school dismissed and return home in time to shop for school clothes for the new year. This was back when summer vacation lasted longer than three months. There might be an occasional visit from my parents and sisters during the stay, stopping thru on their way back to the Interstate after a weekend visit with my other grandparents in Red Level, Alabama. For awhile my oldest sister was part of the mix. I remember one year my cousin, Kim, staying the summer too. That was the summer we both became ill on macaroni and cheese (only because we begged for more until it was coming from our ears!) and it was also the summer Pa took my cut-off jean shorts and burned them. There was lots to do all summer long: gardening, harvest, canning, freezing, gathering eggs, shelling beans, washing dishes
I learned so much during those 1/4 year long visits to Mama and Pa's. I remember Pa plowing the side garden behind an old plow pulled by an old mule. I remember Mama in the bean patch with that huge flour sack bonnet tied beneath her chin. I had one too! I remember the two acre corn field out back. I remember china berry wars with my sisters while riding the propane tank horse in the back yard. Gathering eggs was a favorite activity and The Price is Right was one of Mama's favorite TV shows (of course, there was no TV watching without a chore in your lap!) Watching Mama kill a chicken after Pa caught it was not a fave. However, sitting down to Sunday dinner of fried chicken, butter beans, creamed corn, fresh tomatoes, fried okra, mashed potatoes and gravy, and hot biscuits, never brought to mind the early morning slaughter. Followed by the blackberry dumplin's, who cared! Every day of the week, Mama cooked breakfast and a big
We spent time in a hot kitchen a good bit of everyday ... blanching beans and peas, stewing tomatoes, cutting corn off the cob. I still remember the box fan on the deep freezer blowing a cool breeze across a large towel spread with hot blanched beans, soon to be bagged and frozen for later meals. We made our beds and swept the entire house and dusted every single morning. I suppose it was necessary because there was so much food prep going on. Mama washed her clothes with an old wringer washer until the day there was a regular washing machine delivered from Sears! Oh yes! What a treat to go to Sears and cash in the greenstamp books! She still always hung the clothes outside on the line to dry. There were many runs to grab everything just before the afternoon showers came. I remember several times Mama sniffing the air and quickly putting the dishpan of beans on the floor next to the rocker, and darting out the screen door to the clothes line, yelling behind her "Terri Lynn, come on, the rain is comin."
My Mama, as we called her, taught me so much. She played a large part in who I am today. I learned to garden, to cook, to clean house, to store food, to pray, to have at least that mustard seed of faith, to be creative (she taught me how to sew on an old Singer machine, which I still have, as well as the first flour sack quilt I made with her help). She also made me dresses from fabric the Alatex dumped. Mama retired from the sewing factory so she knew where the good stuff was tossed! There's no end to the things I learned during those summers. She taught me to have a giving heart. She was always up before sunrise, way before if there was someone in need of a meal, or grieving a loss, or sick, or in the hospital, or just needing a kind visit. Sometimes I thought more food left that house than stayed. They always planted more than needed just in case. She always cooked more too ... just in case the preacher came by for a visit!
Perhaps one of my fondest memories was going to bed at dusk, two full-size beds in the room I shared with Mama. Pa was in the next room ... only an open doorway separated us. Except for thunderstorms, Mama slept in one bed and I in the other. She knew it was a luxury for me, since back home I shared a bed with one sister and the room with three. The only noise was the hum of the window fans and the occasional crickets chirping outside. Lying there quietly, I would notice another hum ... soft voices....rising a little here and there as Mama and Pa prayed. They prayed in unison and sometimes taking turns, one would echo a "Yes, Lord" in agreement with the other. As I listened to the names of people they lifted to Heaven, it seemed no one was left out of their prayers for protection, peace and grace to face tomorrow.
|"Mama" Eula and "Pa" John Ward|
I can only hope to be half the grandmother mine was to me.